Five years ago, Oak Park Village Hall spent $13.4 million to expand a local public parking garage, as part of the Whiteco apartment tower on Harlem. The addition was supposed to last for decades, but it's already cracking; and it will now cost some $750,000 to patch up the Holley Court Garage according to a consultant's estimate.
It was back in September that the village first noticed cracks forming in the west expansion of the garage. So village hall hired a consultant (Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates) shortly after, and since then has paid the company some $60,000 to figure out what's gone wrong, and to devise a fix.
WJE discovered that part of the top level is "severely cracked." And its report states that "paint existed on a portion of the vertical surface of the crack, suggesting that the crack had developed prior to or at the same time the structure was painted."
Fixing the structure will cost upwards of $750,000, according to a preliminary report sent to the village in February and obtained by Wednesday Journal through a Freedom of Information Act request.
That price tag doesn't include the cost for WJE to design the repairs and oversee the work, according to the report.
Oak Park paid for the expansion of the garage, sending the money to Whiteco Residential, which hired a construction company to build it. Village President David Pope said Monday that he's confident the developers will pay for the repairs, as they've been very "responsive and accommodating" in addressing the situation.
A call to Tim Connelly, the head of Whiteco, on Monday was not returned. The cracking and crumbling of the garage constitutes a breach of contract by Whiteco, according to Assistant Village Attorney Simone Boutet, and village hall believes it has legal remedies if the developer refuses to repair the structure.
It's too early to say what, exactly, caused the cracks to start forming in the garage, said Steve Witt, director of the Building and Property Standards Department and a trained structural engineer. Preliminarily, it appears there may have been an error in the architectural drawings. He said there's no reason a five-year-old garage should be cracking so soon after being built.
"I think it's still premature to point the finger at exactly what happened," Witt said. "I think the report starts to go in that direction, but until all the facts are in, I don't think it's prudent to start pointing fingers at this point."
Village hall is currently waiting for Whiteco to respond to WJE's suggestions, Witt said. In the meantime, the village is paying the consultant to inspect the Holley Court garage twice a month, and to design "temporary shoring" at 10 different spots in the structure. Some 120 parking spaces in the 1,213-space garage have been shut down to the public while the repairs are taking place.
Greg Marsey, a village trustee from 2003 to 2007, who campaigned against the Whiteco tower, worries that cracking seen at the garage is only "a layer of the onion." He speculated that costs to fix Holley Court might balloon far above the initial $750,000 estimate.
"I think, realistically, you're going to have to double that number, and I think it's outrageous," Marsey said. "Construction estimates are never accurate initially, and there are always cost overruns."
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